COUNCIL bosses have been forced to ban boot camps in a Southend park - after nuisance joggers ran riot and caused damage on the site.

Runners have been jumping on and off memorial benches and organising boot camps without a licence at Marine Parade Gardens, Leigh, prompting urgent action from Southend Council.

The ban, which came into place with immediate effect, comes as cars parked illegally on the green space, with damage also caused to trees and benches after exercise enthusiasts have tied equipment onto them.

But Angus Browne, director of Brownes Bootcamp, has defended the ban, despite the council facing heavy criticism after a huge sign was put in place to notify visitors of the new rules.

The 31-year-old from Leigh said: “We keep seeing total idiots using the space with no permit at all when our company gets slated and abused on social media for causing the problems and noise when we actually have a permit at the field on Belton Way West.

“We don’t even use that area, but rather personal trainers and groups who haven’t been able to use the gym because of Covid that do.

“I’ve done outside training for 14 years, so it is upsetting to see. Imagine you have bought a bench in memory of your family or loved one for runners to be climbing all over it.”

Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “We’re unfortunately seeing large organised groups and clubs who need a licence to use our public open spaces in this way, which are causing disturbance, damage and issues for other park users.

“We’re aware of groups jumping on and off donated benches as part of exercise routines, cars parking illegally on the green spaces and trees and benches being used to tie equipment to which is causing damage.”

Southend Council has confirmed there are no signs in place for the cliff lift steps just yet, but that it will consider it.

Councillor Mulroney added: “We’ve also received a number of complaints from people who are experiencing issues with using the steps to access Leigh station and old Leigh due to the use by organised groups.

“At times, the volume of people running up and down them is stopping others from being able to use the steps.

“The signage isn’t intended to stop individuals using the steps for exercise, we’re trying to ensure they are accessible for all.”